Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Wheel Alignment

Paso Robles, California, USA

July 12, 2012

This essay, Wheel Alignment, is the companion piece to Fahrenheit In A Celsius World.

I shopped around for a new set of tires. There are many choices in the market. There are many options included with each choice: the price, the mileage expectancy, the warranty, the routine rotations, the balancing, the flat repair etc. There are combinations of some or all of the above. The deal I eventually went with included a nice set of new hub caps at a bargain basement price, plus a full wheel alignment - free. In addition, I liked the dealer's approach. He wasn't simply selling tires. He was committed to taking care of the tires for the life of the tires. And all his post-sale service promises came with no charge.

Schematic courtesy
Wheel Alignment
I told him when I left my car with him for the tire installation and the wheel alignment, to make sure  the steering wheel hangs straight. Another shop did a wheel alignment for me on an earlier occasion. When it was done, the steering wheel was a couple of clicks off horizontal. It was so annoying, so distracting that I returned my car to the shop to have it corrected. They took three more tries  to hang the steering wheel straight. I asked the tire dealer to promise me he would have the steering wheel hanging straight. He guaranteed  he would.

When I went to fetch my car, I was pleased with my new tires and their chunky tread. During the time I lived in South Africa we called tennis shoes "tackies", a name we also used for tires. I was pleased with my new tackies  and their chunky tread. The new hub caps also looked great. But I wondered if he'd hung the steering wheel perfectly horizontal when he did the wheel alignment.

Hand / eye co-ordination  is interesting. Looking at the road while holding the steering wheel, the pre-fixed patterning embedded in my hand / eye co‑ordination machinery told me it was off, dropped a quarter inch to the left. If I straightened the steering wheel, the car veered to the right. I'd have to take it back to the tire dealer to fix. Cursing a familiar expletive I vented frustration.

Actually there was another choice. I could take my car back to have the wheel alignment adjusted to level the steering wheel ... or  ... I could simply live with  the steering wheel a quarter inch off true horizontal. A steering wheel a quarter inch off true horizontal isn't intrinsically dangerous. I could tolerate it. Yet I had a constant pull, if you will, to turn the steering wheel to the level pre-fixed by the patterning embedded in my hand / eye co-ordination machinery. It was that pull, even more than the unlevel steering wheel, which I wanted gone.

I called the tire dealer to alert him that I may want the wheel alignment adjusted - the steering wheel hang in particular. I also told him I'd be driving to and from Santa Barbara soon, a round trip of approximately seven hundred and fifty miles with long stretches of straight, flat freeway and plenty of opportunity to live with the state of the wheel alignment, and to decide if the steering wheel hang had to be redone.

What I discovered on that drive surprised me. I discovered the steering wheel hang wasn't  off. It was, in fact, perfect. The steering wheel was dead level  - brilliantly so, in fact. What was  off, however, was the pre-fixed patterning of my hand / eye co-ordination machinery as set by the previous wheel alignment. The previous wheel alignment had hung the steering wheel level with the dashboard behind it. It was a visual  level, not the true horizontal level. The steering wheel hang the tire dealer had done was the true horizontal level.

I had become so familiar with, so habituated by  the earlier wheel alignment which set the steering wheel hanging visually with the dashboard behind it (the dashboard which, in any case, is mostly molded and curved and is therefore not  a good foil for leveling) that when I held the steering wheel dead level with the true  horizontal, it didn't look right  and it didn't feel right. As soon as I gave up my old habit, instead getting used to the steering wheel hanging level in alignment with the true horizontal, I could tell it was perfect. What's amazing is it had always  been perfect, having been that way since my new tires were installed and the wheel alignment done, something the pre-fixed patterning embedded in my hand / eye co-ordination machinery had disguised - disguised, that is, until then.

I called the tire dealer again to let him know what I'd discovered, to say his work on the wheel alignment was fine, to say his work hanging the steering wheel level with the true horizontal was also fine (perfect, in fact), and to say I wouldn't be coming in again after all. I thanked him for a job well done.

The Moral Of The Story

Now the moral of the story is this: be mindful of what you align yourself with. If what you align yourself with isn't level, then everything else in your life keyed off of what you align yourself with, isn't level either. Furthermore that which is truly  level may not always look like it's truly level or feel like it's truly level, given the already always pre-fixed patterning embedded in your machinery

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